Philadelphia Flyers: Carter Hart is back to his old self

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 18: Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 18: Carter Hart #79 of the Philadelphia Flyers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The position of goaltender is arguably the most important in all of sports, and over the years in the NHL we’ve seen subpar netminding sink championship-caliber clubs, as well as incredible performances between the pipes elevate teams to heights they had no business reaching otherwise. Thus, it follows that, as Carter Hart goes, so go the Philadelphia Flyers.

And it’s looking pretty good so far.

It’s still very early, but Flyers fans everywhere have to love what they’re seeing from the young man (still just 23!) in net, as Hart has been a key factor in the team’s solid 5-2-1 start. Here’s a quick glimpse of his results so far:

– 10/15 vs. VAN: 35 saves on 39 shots

– 10/18 vs. SEA: 23 saves on 24 shots

– 10/23 vs. FLA: 27 saves on 30 shots

10/27 @ EDM: 34 saves on 37 shots

– 10/30 @ CGY: 32 saves on 35 shots

– 11/2 vs. ARI: 29 saves on 29 shots

Put it all together, and Carter Hart currently sports a .928 save percentage and 2.33 Goals Against Average.

This has the makings of a bounceback season for Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart.

It’s very early, of course, and one wouldn’t expect those numbers to hold at quite these levels for a whole season, but this excellent start is exactly what the doctor ordered for Hart after his disastrous 2020-21 season.

We don’t need to rehash how bad Hart was last year, which was exacerbated by the way the team played in front of him, but it’s important to look back and use it to gauge how much better he’s performing in the early weeks of this season. Aside from some opening night hiccups that started to sound the alarm for a few Flyers fans used to decades of worst case scenarios, Hart has brought his trademark focus and confidence to the rest of his starts.

It’s all started with first period success, as Hart has allowed a total of just three first period goals in the six games he’s played. The Flyers have yet to be burned by an early goal or two that’s had them chasing the game right away, something which occurred all too frequently last season. With Hart and the team as a whole getting off to good starts, Alain Vigneault and his staff haven’t been forced to deviate from their gameplans, with the Flyers netting some positive results by “sticking to the script” in the early going this season.

While one can’t dismiss the possibility of an extended slump at some point, this year’s version of Carter Hart just seems different – more alert and enjoying himself much more than he was able to last year while dealing with Covid-related restrictions imposed by the league. It’s something that Hart spoke openly about, and it seems like he was keenly aware of the issues he was facing and knows how to properly address them. With positive strides taken since last season, Hart is back looking like the franchise netminder that the Flyers thought they had as recently as a year ago before things started to go sour.

Take Monday night’s 3-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes as a case in point. At home, against an inferior opponent, the Flyers figured to have an easy time. But the Coyotes, to their credit, brought the effort and matched the Flyers for large chunks of the game. Their skill is sorely lacking, but they sent some testers Hart’s way early in the game, and their own goaltender stoned the Flyers at every turn to keep things scoreless through two periods.

Now, in years past, I would have been able to tell you with about 90 percent certainty that the Flyers were going to lose this game. When they’ve run into a hot goalie and it’s become a game of “who blinks first”, whichever mediocre netminder the Flyers had guarding the pipes on a given night was bound to let one in, probably a cheap one at that, and the team would never recover.

But Monday was different. Hart matched his counterpart save for save, and the Flyers broke the ice in the third, with Hart closing the door all night to earn a shutout win. Even against a cellar dweller like Arizona, it was impressive. The Flyers may have fallen into the trap on Monday night, if not for a goaltender whom they can actually rely upon. Hart continued his early trend of staying square to the shooter, minimizing rebounds, and the general fundamental play that he prides himself on but unfortunately got away from last year.

Now, as the Flyers begin to play contests within their division, those proverbial “four-point games”, Hart will need to be even better. The challenge becomes greater; the stakes are higher. And the Flyers have to be feeling pretty good about things at this moment.

Next. Watch Cam Atkinson score an insane buzzer beater. dark

It seems that Carter Hart is rounding back into form, with all signs pointing towards a tremendous turnaround for him. It’s a welcome sight for a Philadelphia Flyers club that absolutely needs him to be the best player on the ice if they hope to make serious noise this season.